Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
Armed with a large picnic and plenty of cushions we headed off to the amphitheatre at The Hawth, Crawley for the production of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The production was performed by Illyria, a theatre company that tour Europe entertaining audiences with their outdoor plays including interpretations of Shakespeare and productions specifically for children.
The performance follows the traditional story of Ali Baba from 1001 Nights where a very poor Ali Baba and his wife, live near his richer brother Cassim. One day Ali Baba is out collecting wood he sees a man, who turns out to be a thief, stand outside what looks like sheer rock face and call out “Open Sesame”. To his amazement the rock opens and the man steps inside. Some while later the thief comes back outside and rides away. Ali Baba goes to the rock and tries it himself, calling “Open Sesame” the rock opens and to his surprise he finds stacks of gold, silver, and jewellery. He quickly collects as much gold as he can carry and takes it back to his wife.
There was so much gold she ran to the wife of Cassim and borrowed some scales. Knowing Ali Baba’s poverty, the sister was curious to find out what his wife wanted to measure, so put some suet at the bottom of the measure so that anything placed upon it would stick to it. She then carried it back to her sister, without noticing that a piece of gold was stuck.
When Cassim came home his wife was incensed shouting “Cassim, your brother is richer than you. He does not count his money, he measures it.”
She showed him the piece of gold and Cassim grew so envious he went straight to confront his brother. Ali Baba assumed that Cassim and his wife knew their secret, so he confessed all and offered Cassim a share. He tells Cassim where the magic cave is and next day when he does not return he goes to the cave to find that Cassim has been captured by the thieves and met a grisly end.
The rest of the production sees Ali Baba and his family trying to evade certain death from the thieves, with plenty of help from his slave, Morgiana. With hilarious fighting scenes involving lobsters and boxing gloves thirty seven of the Thieves are defeated. The other three eventually meet their end with plenty of humorous fighting which had the audience in stitches. The strong characters in Illyria’s performance really bring this show to life and you will find the humour is contagious.
We had been to the amphitheatre at The Hawth before and knew it added a wonderful backdrop to any performance. Set in a wooded clearing the stepped seating means everyone has a perfect view of the stage and the actors can move around the audience should they desire. I really recommend watching a performance here, don’t forget to bring chairs, blanket and a picnic and settle in for an entertaining couple of hours that feels a million miles away from the standard theatre experience.
Illyria’s production of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves will appeal to all ages and the audience was totally diverse with several large family groups. Illyria’s mission statement is; to create a varied programme of outstandingly enjoyable theatre and to make it available for everyone to see, this rings true and no matter what your age Illyria will keep you entertained throughout the two hour performance.
I highly recommend this show whether you are looking for afternoon out for a family, a couple or a group of friends you will have a brilliant time.
For more information and tour dates visit www.illyria.co.uk.
For other shows at The Hawth in Crawley visit hawth.co.uk or call the box office on 01293 553636.
The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley, Sussex, RH10 6YZ | 01293 553636